Bathtub Gin is Chelsea's Best Kept Secret

Bathtub Gin is Chelsea's Best Kept Secret

Bathtub Gin Bar (Courtesy of Bathtub Gin)

Bathtub Gin, a modern speakeasy in the heart of Chelsea, upholds the traditions of the Prohibition Era by hiding its entrance behind a fully-functioning coffee shop called The Stone Coffee Company. The term “Bathtub Gin” was coined in response to the poor-quality of alcohol available due to the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale or manufacture of distilled alcohol. Producers of gin were forced to use denatured alcohol and by allowing the mixture to steep in a tub for several hours or even days with juniper berries, the gin became more drinkable.     

A doorman discreetly greets guests at the entrance of The Stone Coffee Company and on a Saturday night, you can expect a wait of around 20 minutes to get in. The doorman selects the order in which guests can enter—choosing first those who “look the part” i.e. fashion-forward and stylish—clientel that complement their vibe. (Please note, there is no strict dress code and everyone is eventually allowed in.)

A hidden door finally opens which leads you directly into a dimly-lit bar. My eyes needed a moment to adjust as I approached the hostess station. Subtle flickering lights are scattered around the space creating a deeper sense of secrecy. As I waited for my table, I watched the bartenders work feverishly to architect cocktails with over 10 ingredients and dozens of steps from whipping egg whites to pressing and macerating fresh ingredients like ginger and mint—proving that crafting a delicious cocktail is, in fact, an art form. 

Bathtub Gin Bartenders (Courtesy of Bathtub Gin)

Small chandeliers covered in lace and tassels spotlight the exposed brick walls and cozy variations of couches, small tables, and damask-upholstered banquets that surround the centerpiece of the room: A beautifully-restored claw foot copper tub. The tub is used exclusively during their weekly burlesque shows, but guests won't be discouraged from getting in for a quick photo shoot. The ceiling above the tub is covered in copper tiles giving the space a sepia filter. The music playlist was pleasantly eclectic including Frank Sinatra, The Jackson 5, and Queen, all playing at a perfect conversation level.  I ordered a charcuterie plate with my all-star favorites: Humbolt Fog cheese, chicken liver mousse, and saucisson de Paris (garlic pork sausage). The mixed plate worked perfectly with my Gin-Gin Cup cocktail with Nolet’s Silver dry gin, lemon, wildflower honey, pressed ginger, lavender extract, sage, topped with chilled Perrier. 

The highlight of the evening was the small band that was set up in one of the booths. As a modern twist, they played new arrangements of classic jazz tunes, aligning perfectly with the ambiance of the bar.  Bathtub Gin is a picturesque speakeasy—it successfully transports visitors by recreating a more precarious time in American history.  Reservations are encouraged, so check their calendar for weekly live music and burlesque shows and stop in for one of their carefully-crafted cocktails tonight. Su- W 5 pm-2 am, Th-Sa 5 pm- 4 am, Brunch: Su 11:30 am-3:30 pm.

<< Bathtub Gin, 132 9th Ave. (btw 18th St. & 19th St.), 646.559.1671 

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